By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Shedding light on his decidedly nonideological political views, Brown says he will focus on four areas in 2007 and beyond: cracking down on crime, protecting workers, promoting more intelligent growth and fighting global warming.
His crime-fighting passions, adopted as Oakland mayor, might be jarring to anyone who remembers the Jerry Brown who studied Zen Buddhism and spent time with Mother Teresa. “I never got to know Jerry very well,” says Garry South, the longtime consigliere to Gray Davis, who was Governor Jerry Brown’s chief of staff in the 1970s and went on to become governor himself. “We were always distancing from the Moonbeam stuff of the past,” says South of Davis’ relationship with Brown. “But he did a very effective job of becoming a pragmatic mayor in Oakland.”
Now, as attorney general, Brown says he will “help local law enforcement and other agencies to make our streets and communities as safe as possible” — his constant theme in Oakland. And to do that, he’ll set up an attorney general “strike force” to descend on troubled communities.
He also wants to use his office to “promote urban growth in a sustainable way,” what he calls “elegant density.” As mayor of Oakland, Brown built or won approval for new housing for 10,000 residents in an area that had been a relative dead zone in long-troubled Oakland’s downtown. He won widespread praise from the real estate and investment businesses — and criticism from the left, for promoting gentrification.
BUT, EVER THE MIXED BAG, he also plans to heavily focus on global warming, an issue he first championed as governor years ago. He intends to be very involved in implementation of California’s landmark climate-change law curtailing greenhouse-gas emissions, and as attorney general will play the lead role in defending the state’s efforts against opposition from the Bush administration and various industry groups.
Nevertheless, don’t assume you can second-guess Attorney General Brown. Despite his long-standing green credentials, he is skeptical of a high-profile lawsuit filed by Lockyer, now the state’s treasurer, against major U.S. and Japanese automakers over vehicle emissions.
Lockyer thinks the big car makers should pay for damages to the state’s environment from greenhouse gases emitted by their cars, but Brown has been leery about Lockyer’s high-profile lawsuit. Anne Gust Brown notes that what the car manufacturers have been doing is legal, and Brown himself says, “I’m going to enforce the laws vigorously and with common sense.”
AWKWARD AS IT MAY SEEM to be the new guy backing away from a widely watched and highly political lawsuit against car makers, Brown may have found an ally a few days ago when former prosecutor and Republican Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox filed a friend of the court brief siding with the automakers. It was another reminder that Brown today chooses his issues first and worries about party affiliation second.
Brown actually riffed a bit on using more “common sense” in his inaugural address, saying, “There was a time, by the way, when people thought that common sense was an actual organ just behind the pituitary gland. Maybe it’s not so common.”
Already, some environmentalists are worried about Brown. “I think Lockyer’s suit against the car manufacturers can be a creative way to get at global warming,” says John White of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. “I hope Jerry doesn’t abandon it.”
Brown says he will work with Schwarzenegger on global warming. Both Schwarzenegger and Brown speak to many of the same themes — themes that define an emerging independent spirit that could transcend the conventional boundaries of the two political parties.
Schwarzenegger and Brown worked closely together to defeat a 2004 initiative to water down the three-strikes sentencing law, with Brown and many prosecutors convinced that the new relaxed rules would have given soft treatment to thousands of hardcore criminals. And they both talk up bipartisanship and emphasize climate change, stem-cell research and new technologies.
His comfort with taking a broad range of political stances may be, in addition to his famous name and storied if controversial history, why Brown won by nearly 19 points last November, a higher margin even than Schwarzenegger’s victory over the hapless Democrat, Phil Angelides. Indeed, L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said later that there is much he can learn from the former governor.
Delgadillo ran a harshly negative campaign against Brown, gaining what seemed at first a surprising number of endorsements, such as the California Teachers Association and a host of labor groups. Brown, on the other hand, having been a political lightning rod since the 1970s, not only had plenty of enemies on the right, but as Oakland’s tough-on-crime mayor and a champion of charter schools, he ran afoul of groups on the left — the teachers union and some other public-employee groups.
Even so, during the campaign, Brown’s popularity actually increased. He says he had a favorable rating of 38 percent and an unfavorable rating of 31 percent when he began the campaign. Now, his pollster John Fairbanks notes he has a 54 percent favorable rating and a 36 percent unfavorable rating, putting him in the same range of popularity as Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein.